Installation Reflections

Church windowInstallations are on my mind these days. This past Sunday I preached for the installation of our new associate pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas. Kevin Hintze will be serving with senior pastor John Davenport and the other wonderful members of our church and school staff. It’s a great team of dedicated servants of the Lord!

Last Monday, September 8, was the 13th anniversary of my initial installation as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Only three days later the events of 9/11 occurred. It was a difficult time for both our nation and our church body. Our nation rallied against the evil behind the 9/11 attacks. Our church leaders did what leaders do. We led!

While some, mostly pastors, were not pleased, the overwhelming majority of people and pastors in our national church body expressed thanks and support for our public response. As a matter of fact, the LCMS Council of Presidents unanimously adopted a widely read and broadly applauded full page ad in U.S.A. Today. The text of that ad is printed below my signature.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I was installed to my second term as president of the LCMS. The three years between those two installations were difficult ones. Yet they also provided multiple opportunities for publicly demonstrating the love of Christ for people whose lives were wrecked and ruined by the atrocities of 9/11.

The primary difficulty was not that some disagreed with decisions I had made. It was the vitriolic manner in which their disagreement was expressed. That included personal attacks, name calling, mischaracterization and refusal to acknowledge that my decisions were in accord with the position of the LCMS, expressed in convention resolutions at the 2001 national convention. My decisions were ultimately upheld by those responsible for the system of appeals then in place.

Leaders always disappoint someone. If they’re doing nothing, some think they should be doing something. If they’re doing something, some think they should be doing something else.

Installations are all about the beginning of a relationship between the one being installed and the organization, institution or other entity that has called, hired or otherwise engaged the one being installed. All the installations in my life have been both meaningful and memorable!

A Promise

In the aftermath of this recent tragedy, the 2.6million members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod express our love, care and concern for the tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.

David, in Psalm 23, looked to God and took comfort in His protecting presence in times of great personal and national distress:

“The Lord is my shepherd…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our Good Shepherd, said in the gospel of John words that are particularly powerful at this moment in time:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  

That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death. His own death and resurrection give hope to us all. He grants those who trust in Him forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

In these days of great personal grief and national mourning, our source of comfort, hope and strength is the same as that expressed by St. Paul:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Your friends and neighbors of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod open to you our hearts and our churches in this time of human grief, suffering, fear and uncertainty. We invite you, along with us, to cling to the comfort, hope and strength in God’s promise that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

God Said No



Here’s something I received this week from a friend. Perhaps it will be helpful to you, especially in times of doubt, difficulty, depression or despair.

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, “No. It is not for me to take it away, but for you to give it up.”

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, “No. His spirit is whole. His body is only temporary.”

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, “No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations. It isn’t granted, it is learned.”

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, “No. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.”

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, “No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, “No. You must grow on your own. But I will prune you to make you fruitful.”

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, “No. I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.”

I asked God to help me love others, as much as He loves me.
God said, “Aha! Finally you have the idea!”

God bless you abundantly!